On Sunday November 30, as I walked along the Walnut Creek Metropolitan Park trails and tried to enjoy my view of the fall changing leaves, and the bright colored patters, it was disturbed by huge cement pipes that stuck grossly out of the ground with openings that faced the creek. As Leopold said “a conservationist is one who is humbly aware that with each stroke he is writing his signature on the face of his land.” The multiple pipes, newly paved parking lot to adhere to the population increase in Austin, and trash I always find scattered along the trails, show however, how late people are with realizing our lasting impacts on the environment. While I’m thankful the city decided to preserve this land with all the development going on in the suburbs of North Austin, it seems as though even the protected areas aren’t completely safe from human harm.
On the pipe side of the bridge that leads into the park, the right picture shows what the creek looks like, and on the other the other side shown in the left picture there are no pipes and no trail or clearing for people, so there is hardly, if any human contact. In the left picture the water is clear and you can see straight down to the creek bed. While, the other side of the creek is clogged by leaves, the surface is impermeable to sunlight and with no flowing water the leaves have to decay. This would decrease biodiversity the same way algae does, since less species can tolerate life without the sun. I’m not sure if there’s a correlation between human activity and the biodiversity in creeks, but it seems as though it was a message to appreciate the beauty of unmarked nature. The leaves got me wondering about the trees responsible and so I sat in a field to observe their mostly silent majesty .
Trees are literally the reason for life, everything they do from the moment they sprout to even after they die and until they are decomposed, revolves around providing. Without trees we would have no oxygen, no shade on a hot day, no nutrients for soil to become fertile with, and no habitat or food for a majority of the world’s organisms. In Walnut Creek Park there are Texas Red Oak trees which change into the vibrant red we see in fall, there are drought resistant Cedar Elm, the most common tree in Texas, and Evergreens who live up to their name, to list a few of the many native Texas trees.
But there’s an even more discrete job in the ecosystem, which doesn’t get the beauty trees have, and still maintains a role in the ecosystem just as important, and that is the decomposing done by fungus. The most common one I found was this yellow moss fungus which have a parasitic relationship with the trees they inhabit. The white green Lichen also pictured however, show a symbiotic relationship between algae and moss, which both in turn have a commensalism relationship with the tree. The fungus collects moisture for the algae and the algae creates food for the fungus. This is one of the many examples which show not only the unique balances in nature, but the very complex relationships which are interdependent. While we may see the impacts of ourselves as one person as small, the reality is that a lot of people think the same way, and this leads to ignorance of the problem instead of innovation for solutions. We must find ways to evolve into conservationists.